Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2013

It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.  –  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Albany Law SchoolOver the past three years I’ve slowly built up a reputation as an activist, and I’m frequently consulted by journalists, academics and even lawyers (those which leave discernible traces online are linked on my “Offsite” page).  Better still, a number of activists I truly respect read my blog either frequently or regularly; I hope to meet some of them in person at the Desiree Alliance convention in Las Vegas this July.  Last September, I attended the Southern Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Conference in Atlanta, and convention organizer Robert Childs asked me to give guest lectures on two successive days at two branches of Oklahoma State University this April.  But all of these venues will be friendly ones; today I’m participating in the Albany Law School’s annual symposium, whose topic this year is “Voiceless Cargo: Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery in the Modern Era”.  And though I’m sure everyone will be totally professional, at the same time I’m well aware (as the title of the event alone should tell you) that though the audience may be receptive to some of what I have to say, I honestly don’t expect my fellow panelists to be.

Still, I think it’s important that I be there.  The organizers thought highly enough of my work and my opinions to invite me, pay for my airfare to Albany and hotel for two nights, and assemble several hundred law students, faculty and guests to hear what I have to say.  And that’s important not because of who I am, but because of what I am: a retired sex worker.  Not a prohibitionist shill parroting the typical horror stories, but an established critic of the “trafficking” narrative chosen to present that critical view.  Usually, the “sex trafficking” bandwagon just goes rolling along, horns blowing and drums beating, and the voices of real sex workers are drowned out; we are treated as things to be talked about rather than subject-matter experts to be talked to.  But this time, the organizers recognized the need for our viewpoint; this time somebody said, “hey, why don’t we find out what at least one real sex worker has to say about all this?”  Nor am I being treated as a token; I’ve been invited to contribute a scholarly paper to the law school’s journal along with the other participants, and have even been offered help putting it into the proper format so I don’t end up looking like an idjit.

Lady Justice by Chad Awalt (2001)So even though I’m slightly terrified of the event, and wholly terrified of the flights to and from Albany, I think this is important; I’m wholly aware that I’m not there merely as a representative of Maggie McNeill, but as an ambassadress for my whole profession, and that’s a huge responsibility I do not take lightly.  I promise I will do my very best to be sensible and levelheaded and charming, and to voice the concerns of sex workers in general rather than concentrating on mine in particular.  So I got my physician to prescribe a strong anti-nausea drug, went out and bought an appropriately legal-looking suit, and flew up here yesterday; I suspect I’ll be awfully tied up today and tomorrow (when I fly home), so if y’all don’t see me “tweeting” or replying to any comments, that’s why.  Unless I succumb to brain fever I should be back at my desk on Saturday morning, doing what I usually do.  So pray for me, wish me luck, cross your fingers, beam positive vibes or just trust me to do my best (whichever one fits your own belief system or lack thereof), and a week from today (March 7th) I’ll report on how everything went…which I hope will be, in the balance, positive.

Read Full Post »

There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys.
There’s only you and me and we just disagree.
  –  Jim Krueger

A.S. writes:

I’m in a “lukewarm” marriage.  I love my wife and do not want to hurt her, but ever since we had kids 11 years ago, I have been frustrated most of the time.  10 years ago, I started visiting massage parlors, and 4 years ago, escorts; I now meet with an escort I have known for the past 3 years, and after each meeting, I feel happier, better able to work, and happier to see my family afterwards.  I know I am betraying the promise of sexual exclusivity I made to my wife when we married, and that she would be hurt if she found out.  However, I feel it is better for our kids if we stay together, and as long as my wife doesn’t know what I’m doing, everyone will be happier.  Should I try harder to stop seeing escorts, and focus on rekindling romance and intimacy in my marriage?  Or continue seeing an escort and risk discovery and pain later on?

Messer Marsilio and His Wife by Lorenzo Lotto (1523)Marriage was designed to serve an economic purpose, not a sexual one; up until the 14th century absolutely nobody pretended otherwise, and until the late 19th century the idea of “love-matches” was largely a conceit of the economically-secure European upper middle class.  But about a hundred years ago the rather absurd and untenable idea that marriage should be based only on love and no other reason became the norm throughout Western society; even this wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the “social purity” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which insisted that men could be held to standards of marital fidelity and premarital chastity which didn’t even work for some women.  Prior to that time, it was universally understood that the average man wanted a lot more sex than the average woman, and that’s what whores were for; prostitution was recognized as “the lesser of two evils”, a practice which helped to prevent rape and lessen affairs with other men’s wives and virgin daughters.  The “social purists” and their political wing, the “progressives” (yes, that’s the origin of the term) insisted that mankind was perfectible, and that laws inspired by “science”, drafted by wise and educated “experts” and imposed on the population at gunpoint under threat of “correction” in “rehabilitative” prisons, could be used to “improve” and “re-educate” people.  I’m sorry for all the scare quotes, but I think all reasonable people can see what this misguided belief-system has done to the United States, the country which (because of its unique sociology) embraced it most wholeheartedly: busybody laws that make literally everyone into criminals, 25% of the world’s prisoners (though we only have 5% of the world’s population), and a war on our own citizens that has resulted in the destruction of millions of lives and the waste of trillions of dollars worldwide.

Human beings are not perfectible; we are flawed, human and individual.  Even if we were perfectible it could certainly not be achieved through coercion (either through state violence or via the sort of emotional blackmail favored by manipulative wives).  And even if some foolproof method of coercion could be developed, who gets to decide what “perfection” means?  Some ruling elite selected by birth, doctrinal orthodoxy, wealth, physical strength, education or skill at winning popularity contests?  Such a system would destroy the souls of its subjects and reduce humans to automata.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with your question, I’ll spell it out.  In a perfectly-matched marriage, the husband would be able to focus all his libido on the wife and she in turn would be excited enough by his interest to want sex every time he did, or else be wise enough to provide him with it every time he wanted it simply because she loved him and/or understood that it’s part of her economic contribution to the marital arrangement.  But no person and no arrangement is perfect, and that includes you, your wife and your marriage.  It’s not unusual for women to lose interest in sex after several children; it’s just biology, and your inability to just settle for what little boring sex she chooses to dole out is likewise biological.  Neither of you is the “abuser” or “victim” as feminists and MRAs both pretend; it’s simply normal, imperfect, frustrating human life.  You could have attempted to badger your wife into more sex, or displayed your frustration through constant arguments, or turned it inward so you could become mentally and physically ill and possibly lose your job or be arrested once your judgment was eroded enough that you did something stupid. But you instead did the wise thing: you hired professionals to deal with the issue,healing touch just as you might hire a guy to cut your grass if you couldn’t do it or day-care people to care for your kids if your wife had to work.  Because that’s what sex workers are: professionals.  We’re not “homewreckers”,  or criminals, or the pathetic victims of evil men who dare to commit the sin of having a sex drive higher than that of their wives; we’re caring professionals who help human beings to deal with the necessities of mortality.

My advice to you, then, is to be as careful as you can so that your wife doesn’t find out.  Keep trying to get her interested in sex, enough to let her know you still want her but not so much that you annoy her.  Make sure she knows you still love her, but only to the extent you sincerely feel it; excessive displays are not only deceptive, they’re suspicious.  Of course, she may find out despite your precautions; she may already know but is simply wiser than you give her credit for, and understands that what you’re doing is for the best.  You mention “the risk of pain later on”, but that will exist no matter what path you choose; all of our lives are full of sorrow, pain and disappointment, often from those we care most about, and all any human can do is to try to minimize the harm his actions cause others…which is exactly what you’ve been doing for the last ten years.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

Read Full Post »

No human being is innocent, but there is a class of innocent human actions called Games.  –  W.H. Auden

I adore games; I always have and I always will.  And while they aren’t terribly unusual things to be fond of, there are three limiting factors which will give you a better picture of what I’m talking about before we really start.

1)  I don’t really care for games played by oneself.  To me, a game is a social interaction between two or more people rather than something one does to amuse oneself alone.  I’ve never been a big fan of either solitaire or masturbation; they both always seemed a bit pointless to me.  This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with either one, or that I look down on those who enjoy them, or that I didn’t engage in both at times (especially as a teenager, though far less often as the years went by and barely at all after 30); it’s just that, what I’m looking for most in both games and sex is something I can’t get from either myself or a machine.

2)  I don’t care for games in which I’m not a participant.  I find watching other people play games even more dreadfully tedious than I find playing them by myself.  Here again there is a sexual parallel; porn and football leave me equally cold.  Ditto for fight scenes in movies unless there is something else interesting about them (if, for example, there is some witty repartee or at least one of the participants has some unusual abilities).  What I’m looking for most in both games and sex is something that requires direct participation.

Count Zaroff3)  I don’t care for games in which the stakes are either too low or too high.  To me, a game is a safe microcosm of life, a space in which the unfathomable complexities of existence can be distilled into a set of rules which allow win or loss through solving the problems by which the game is defined.  The players of a game based purely on chance (with no skill involved) are nothing more than glorified spectators; the dice roll, the pieces are moved in the only way they can be and the game ends in the same way as it would if different people were playing.  On the other hand, a game in which the stakes are too high is not a game at all; it’s real life, with real consequences.  No, thanks; I’ll leave that sort of thing to the professional gamblers and the Count Zaroffs of the world.

As you can see, these criteria eliminate a large fraction of what most people think of when someone says the word “game” (most prominently gambling, spectator sports and solo computer games).  Of the remaining types, I like most of them – word games, thinking games, card games, board games, role-playing games, etc – and quite enjoy nearly any of them if I like the people I’m playing with.  There are some games at which I’m not really competent to compete (chess, drinking games and most sports fall into that category), and others which are far too complicated for my tastes (tabletop war games come to mind).  But by and large, I learn games very quickly and before too long can offer moderately-experienced players an interesting game.  Of course there are some that, all things being equal, I enjoy more than others, and I’ve divided them into five categories for this discussion.

Children’s Games

Happy Little TrainOf all the field games, my favorite was hide and seek; it’s the only one I still enjoy as an adult, though unfortunately it is rarely suggested in grown-up company (though I did play it on a call once with the client and two other working girls).  I always prided myself on coming up with hiding places nobody else could think of, and on being able to figure out others’ hiding places when I was “it”.  As for children’s board games, when I was very small I was quite fond of Cootie and a race game called The Happy Little Train Game, but since both are games of pure chance I outgrew them quickly (though I still own both and have played them on occasion just for giggles).  The only children’s board game I still enjoy for itself (rather than for its nostalgia value) is Sorry!, a Parcheesi variant in which moves are determined by special cards rather than dice.

Board Games

I’ve already described Switchboard in “My Favorite Things You May Never Have Heard Of”, but I’m sure you’ve heard of my other favorite board game: backgammon, one of the oldest (5000 years or more) games still in existence.  While nearly any competent player can trounce me at chess, I have never met anyone who could consistently best me at backgammon.  I discuss several more board games I enjoy in the next section below.

Thinking Games

TherapyThough I am quite fond of both Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit, neither of them occupies quite the place in my favor as good old twenty questions, a game which can be played anywhere with no special equipment at all.  I suppose it’s my librarian’s zeal for classification, but I just love the process of cutting the whole universe down to one specific thing with only twenty well-chosen yes/no questions (for you information theory guys, recognize that’s only twenty bits).  My friend Terrance  was the all-time champ at this; I could pick anything, no matter how specific, and he would be sure to get it.  In one memorable game in my late teens, he was able to arrive at “Raquel Welch’s left nipple” in only about 16 questions.  Another favorite in this category is Therapy, which is similar to Trivial Pursuit in that players must answer questions to collect pegs in different categories; however, the questions are all about psychology and there is a further game mechanic in which players are asked about opinions or life-experiences and other players have to guess what the first player answered.

Card Games

Divine TransformationI  was never a particularly big fan of card games, though as I said above I like them just fine if I like the people I’m playing with.  One of the few fond memories of my marriage to Jack was our friendship with another couple I met through their son, a regular library patron.  Every Friday night for several years we would go to their house, have dinner and then play spades until midnight or later.  It was always the wives against the husbands, and though we always beat the menfolk they never wanted to change the teams (to couple vs. couple or wife-swapping).  I don’t really like cutthroat spades, but I really, really like partnership spades.  The only other card game I would consider a favorite is the first collectible card game, Magic, which Frank taught me after Jack left me at the beginning of 1995 as part of a general strategy of giving me something else to think about other than my myriad problems.  Unlike traditional card games, each player in Magic has his own deck constructed from cards chosen from among thousands (only hundreds when I started) of cards created by the publisher, each with rules that govern the way that card interacts with others; constructing decks is half the fun for me.

Role-Playing Games (RPGs)

D&D kitty 5-25-04Nowadays, many people think of these as games played on a computer, but it originally meant pencil, paper, rulebooks and sitting around a table with friends playing the part of a character one created within the rule structure.  Jeff taught me how to play Dungeons and Dragons just after my 14th birthday, and I was hooked; I was running my own game within a year, and slowly built up so many new rules and rule changes that my version is practically a different game from the official one, now in its 4th edition.  I still enjoy this game more than any other; if I could count every happy hour I spent between the ages of 15 and 30 I have absolutely no doubt the majority were those spent either playing or game-mastering D&D.  Once I started dating my husband I taught him to play, and though his travel schedule has made it difficult for the past few years we still have a (technically) active game going.  I have created several game worlds, two of them extremely elaborate; my story “Empathy” actually takes place in my most complex one, which (if you’re at all familiar with D&D) may give you some idea just how far I’ve gone from the usual sword and sorcery setting.  It isn’t the only role-playing game I really like; Champions (in which one plays a superhero) is a lot of fun as well.  But D&D was my first and greatest love in the RPG multiverse.

Read Full Post »

Superstitions are habits rather than beliefs.  –  Marlene Dietrich

The Keystone Kops are on the job!I’ve noticed a definite trend in the “gypsy whore” and “sex trafficking” hype around Super Bowls over the past few years; the three-word version is “less and later”. For the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, the panic was already in full swing by November, and the claims were both grandiose and stated as a certainty.  It’s impossible to guess how much money was wasted on this police theater, but considering that it involved eleven different “law enforcement” agencies (including the FBI) over a two and a half week period, and two dozen extra staff being “brought in” (which means travel, hotel and per diem x 24 x 18), I’m sure you can imagine.  And all this to catch how many “human traffickers” out of supposedly thousands?  One.  Not an international gangster, either, but an ignorant wannabe pimp who got the idea from the police/media hype just a few days before the event.  The number of arrests made by this “task force” – 133 in all – was extremely typical for Dallas, especially considering that only about half were prostitution-related.  And so the cops were forced to rig the statistics and make ludicrous claims about the weather and the efficacy of their “preparations” in order to save face.

Indianapolis officials seem to have learned something from Dallas; though nobody other than sex workers, a few academics and a very small number of journalists dared to question the hysteria out loud while it was happening, the egg on Dallas officials’ face was hard to miss and some Indianapolis officials were a little gun-shy.  Though attorney general Greg Zoeller started beating the drum in July and held his first press conference in September, the police chief of Indianapolis was unimpressed, several reporters called the story into question and Snopes officially listed it as a debunked myth.  And when the imaginary “traffickers” and their white slaves failed to materialize, officials quietly let the matter die in order to save themselves the embarrassment (though Chicago sheriff Tom Dart later bizarrely claimed that a crusade which netted only 565 victims over ten days in eight states [a mere 7 per state per day] was somehow Super Bowl-related).

Since this year’s game was in New Orleans, naturally I was especially interested in how the hysteria would develop; however, November and December came and went with only the most perfunctory idiocy from police officials.  The first article I considered worth mentioning was from the January 7th Baton Rouge Advocate and, while the reporter allowed herself only token skepticism, the comment thread was overwhelmingly dismissive of the myth.  The police “crackdown” didn’t really start until January 14th, and the FBI used its existing “Innocence Lost” program rather than establish a special operation just for the Super Bowl.  Furthermore, the ritual repetition of the myth-narrative didn’t begin in earnest until February 1st, thus virtually closing the window of opportunity in which debunkers could get responses into print before the game on February 3rd; most tellingly, the “authorities” waited until after the event to hold their big press conference, so they would know exactly what kind of yarn to spin:

In an effort to combat the rampant sex trafficking that authorities say has historically accompanied the Super Bowl, a multi-agency task force arrested 85 people during the week leading up to Sunday’s game in New Orleans.  Those arrests represented just “the tip of the iceberg” of a growing problem, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said at a news conference…Operation Innocence Lost, carried out by the New Orleans Police Department, State Police, FBI and Department of Homeland Security…netted arrests on charges of human trafficking, prostitution, pandering, narcotics and weapons charges, authorities said.  Fifty-three people were arrested in the New Orleans area, while 32 were nabbed in the Baton Rouge area…Authorities booked at least two men on charges of sex trafficking and rescued five women who were allegedly brought to prostitute in New Orleans against their will.  Two were trafficked from Oklahoma; two were brought from Georgia, [said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman]…Details on the fifth victim’s story were scarce because she was 17 years old, so she is considered a minor by federal authorities…four other children were rescued in the operation, police said, however they were not themselves being sexually exploited.  Two of the children, ages 10 and 11, were found by New Orleans police officers and state troopers during a sting operation.  The children were waiting in a car outside a New Orleans location where their mother was prostituting, Edmonson said.  “The looks in those kids’ eyes was so sad…They thought this was normal.”  The children are now in custody of the state Department of Children and Family Services…The other two children were rescued from a similar situation in Baton Rouge…The FBI will continue to provide services for the victims…

Keystone Kop chaseOkay, let’s get this translated.  First, note the implication that all 85 arrests were both Super Bowl and prostitution-related; in fact only 53 were in New Orleans, and only seven of that 53 were for anything to do with prostitution.  The total number of “traffickers” arrested? Two, and you can bet that means they were either drivers or boyfriends of those five “rescued” (in other words, arrested and jailed) women.  Note that “trafficked” from Oklahoma or Georgia actually means the arrested women had drivers’ licenses from those states; they could have been living in New Orleans for up to a year rather than being recently trucked in like produce.  The most troubling detail is the state abduction of the children, who will now be condemned to the nightmare of “child protective services” (possibly forever) because “authorities” disapprove of their mothers’ work.  If those women are “victims” as claimed, how can they justify aggravating that victimization by stealing their children?  But they don’t want us to think about that; to paraphrase Edmonson, “The filth coming out of these cop’ mouths is so disgusting…They really think persecuting people for consensual behavior is normal.”

Still, it’s good to see this ugly annual drama beginning to fade; next year we can probably expect it to be smaller still, and for there to be an even larger number of critics.  The next Super Bowl is to be held in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and this autumn I plan to start encouraging New York City-area sex worker rights organizations (of which there are several) to make pre-emptive strikes on the mythology by calling press conferences and presenting reports (of which there are many), thus demonstrating once and for all that “Super Bowl sex trafficking” is nothing but a perverse masturbatory fantasy and an excuse for devoting extra money and manpower to the War on Whores.

Read Full Post »

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.-Matthew 23:24

Alice in railway carriageSex worker rights activists hear a lot of arguments against decriminalizing our profession, absolutely none of them sound or reasonable (no matter what those who use them may believe).  Most of them are based in one religion or another, and by religion I mean any belief system which is unsupported by (and may even fly in the face of) verifiable facts; others are rooted in the ever-popular desire to control women’s sexuality, arguments that prostitution somehow causes harm to a nebulosity like “public decency”, or the indefensible belief that personal aversions should be forced upon others at gunpoint.  Some of these arguments are wholly ridiculous, while others have the appearance of sensibility to those who are ignorant of either the realities of sex work or the inevitable and unintended consequences of any attempt to proscribe certain behaviors by the use of brute force; one of the most popular prohibitionist strategies of the past few decades falls into the latter category.  Any advocate who presents a compelling moral, legal and practical case demonstrating categorically that decriminalization is better for everyone – sex workers, clients, families of both, health officials, society at large and even government treasuries – can be sure that once every other argument is defeated someone will intone sonorously, as though it were an unanswerable question, “But what about the trafficked children?”  And though this one is no more valid than the others, its emotional impact often flusters even experienced advocates and triggers a reflexively apologetic stance which may well undermine everything she has previously said.

The most serious flaw in this line of attack (it cannot legitimately be called an argument) is the implication that decriminalization somehow harms coerced prostitutes, especially underage ones; in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.  When any business or consensual behavior is criminalized, the law lumps good people together with bad: a punter who is kind and generous is equated with brutal or dishonest ones; an ethical escort service owner who treats her employees fairly is just as “criminal” as one who coerces workers and cheats clients, and so on.  The primary tool of control for those who exploit women is not physical abuse, rape, drugs or black magic as the various narratives pretend: it is threat of exposure to the “lawful authorities”.  Those who are in a country without proper papers are subject to arrest, confinement and deportation, and under criminalization regimes like that of the United States just being a sex worker is illegal, so police are just as likely to arrest a coerced woman as one who adores her job.  Clients or workers under decriminalization are free to report violence or suspected coercion to the police, while those under even partial criminalization are not due to fear of arrest.  Furthermore, criminals are often attracted to criminality; in other words, those who are comfortable making a living outside the law are more likely to take advantage of the higher profits inherent in a black market, so that criminalizing any business actually attracts shady characters who might not otherwise be interested in it.  Simply put, making sex work wholly or partially illegal tends to attract the sort of person who doesn’t mind coercing others; make maid service illegal and there will almost certainly be a rise in the number of coerced, underage domestics.

Another thing that needs to be pointed out is that despite the claims of prohibitionists, the vast majority of sex workers are no more coerced than anyone else without a well-padded trust fund; we all need to work, and we choose the work that suits us best (even if that work is highly unappealing to others).  Less than 2% of all prostitutes are coerced in any meaningful way, and only about 8% of even underage prostitutes report having been coerced into the trade by any person (a number which has, incidentally, remained relatively stable since at least Edwardian times).  And despite sensationalized claims to the contrary, only about 3.5% of all prostitutes in Western countries are below 18, and the majority of those are 17; the average age at which a so-called “child prostitute” enters the trade is 16, not the oft-cited 13.  In other words, the fraction of all Western sex workers who could be described as “trafficked children” in even the loosest and least accurate sense is less than 0.3%.  Criminalizing an entire type of human activity because of the exploitation of a tiny minority of those involved in itFoxconn factory not only exacerbates the problem (see the paragraph above this one), it also sets an impossible precedent; if you consider it a valid response I suggest you learn to grow your own food, make all of your own clothes and chuck your iPhone in the bin (because if you sell it you are also profiting from exploitation).

The third, and perhaps most subtle, problem with this rhetoric is its philosophical bankruptcy and appeal to bigotry.  The Australian activist Cheryl Overs has already expressed this much more effectively than I could:

…even in that overstudied “hotbed of sex trafficking” Cambodia, the only credible study [showed that] less than 2% of sex workers say they had been sold or coerced (CACHA 2008).  How might this compare to the percentage of married women who were forced into marriage – even in the “hotbeds” of forced marriage?  What percentage of gay men have been forced into sodomy?  We don’t know, but clearly both happen.  But it would be absurd to preface the words “bride” and “gay man” with “willing” or “consenting”.  Can you imagine reports that say that condoms should be distributed to “consenting homosexuals”?  Can you think of anything more absurd, more homophobic or more stigmatising?  Can you think of anything more absurd than describing Kate Middleton as a “willing bride”?  Positioning “willing” and “unwilling”  doesn’t  contribute to justice for people who have been raped, beaten [or] imprisoned in the course of either marriage [or] homosexuality and no one would suggest that.  Nor would anyone suggest that rejecting the terms “willing brides” and “consenting homosexuals” amounts to a denial that those things happen.  Yet this is exactly what the trafficking paradigm sets out for sex workers…

It is a sad fact of human existence that some people hurt and abuse others, sometimes for emotional reasons and sometimes for political or economic gain; it is also a fact that there is opportunity for coercion in virtually every human activity.  The solution to this is not to retreat like frightened rabbits into dark warrens, nor to empower the state to police every human interaction in the vain hope that this will somehow help more people than it will harm; on the contrary, the solution is to stop trying to control everything and everybody, so the law is able to focus on those cases where one party has clearly wronged another.  It is long past time for the blind guides of our society to stop expending so much effort in straining at gnats that they regularly swallow camels.

(This column previously appeared in Cliterati on February 10th.)

Read Full Post »

It’s…extremely patronizing…to say someone’s conscious choice of work is degrading.  –  Jon Millward

Eric Jason CampbellLicense To Rape

A [Mt. Pleasant] Texas police officer pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14-years-old…Eric Jason Campbell, 41, has been sentenced to 50 years in prison.  He will also be required to register as a sex offender when he is released…

Saving Them From Themselves

A Massachusetts DA helpfully explains why it’s a good thing his office persecutes teenagers for “sexting”:

…”We do not have any exceptions…for kids who are really in love, for girls who wanted to do it and for guys who promised they wouldn’t share it…” [Robert] Kinzer said.  “A nude photo of [a minor’s] exposed genitalia is child pornography…When they start sharing photos like this, we are going to start charging people with the manufacturing, dissemination and possession of child pornography, and they’re going to…face [prosecution]…You’re going to lose jobs and relationships, and you’ll spend the rest of your life as a registered sex offender”…

Tyranny By Consensus

Since LA County officials have not leaped at the opportunity to waste millions of dollars policing porn shoots to enforce his private condom crusade, Michael Weinstein is now trying to force the city to establish its own redundant health department, which Weinstein presumably believes would be more easily pressured into dancing to his tune:

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced…a new ballot measure …[for] an all-new City of L.A. Public Health Department…AHF has urged Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County’s Public Health director, to shut down non-condom porn shoots…[but] Fielding…hasn’t…despite AHF-led letter and phone campaigns.  And it is well known that officials at the county Public Health Department are opposed to their agency enforcing Measure B…

Big Sister

In this column I wrote, “Prostitution and stripping are already illegal, and it seems that porn will be next, followed by censorship of print media and the internet.”  Yes, I do get tired of being right all the time:

The government is considering…internet filters, such as those used to block China off…to stop Icelanders downloading or viewing pornography on the internet…Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland’s interior minister, is drafting legislation to stop the access of online pornographic images and videos…”violent pornography…has…very harmful effects on young people and can have a clear link to incidences of violent crime,” he said.

In reality, the evidence suggests exactly the opposite, but since Iceland already has the highest rape rate in Europe I guess they figure a few more raped women are just extra eggs for the totalitarian neofeminist omelette.Sex at Dawn  The story quotes the ubiquitous Gail Dines, who also used the occasion to get her name in print in the UK as well.

Presents, Presents, Presents!

This week I received a copy of Sex at Dawn  (which people have been trying to get me to read for years) from Eddie JC.  Thank you, Eddie!

That’s the Ticket!

One would think that the Comic Relief organization could tell the difference between actual statistics and the absurd claims of a “pathological liar” comedy routine, but apparently not:  “75% of women working in prostitution started before they were 18, and most of them feel trapped and would leave if only they could find a way.  The UK is a major destination country for trafficked young people…

The Course of a Disease

…Dublin City Council…rejected calls to support the Turn Off The Red-light campaign.  Amendments passed removed the proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex, and changed the report on Swedish evidence to hearsay.”  The national crusade still rolls on, but this local rejection of the Swedish rot shows that not everyone in Ireland is asleep at the wheel.

FarmVille

On March 4, a new game on Facebook, inspired by the book Half the Sky…will be introduced, with a focus on raising awareness of issues like female genital mutilation and child prostitution…The central character, an Indian woman named Radhika, faces various challenges with the assistance of players, who can help out with donations of virtual goods, for example.  The players can then make equivalent real-world donations to seven nonprofit organizations woven into the game…As her empowerment grows, Radhika moves across the globe to Kenya, Vietnam and Afghanistan…Players who reach the final level learn about sex trafficking in the United States and can donate to an organization in New York called GEMS

Because it’s really important to simplify complex issues and make them fun so that wise, benevolent white people will be tempted to manage the lives of helpless, childlike brown ones.

Little Boxes

A bill that could send women to prison for going topless in public appears set for approval by the North Carolina legislature…[it] would amend the state’s indecent exposure law to expand the legal definition of “private parts” to…include “the nipple, or any portion of the areola, [of] the female breast.”  Depending on whether such exposure is judged to be “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire,” the woman could be charged with a felony, punishable by up to six months in prison…More mundane exposure would be a misdemeanor, meriting up to 30 days in jail.  “Incidental” exposure by breastfeeding mothers would remain exempt…Rayne Brown…[said] her constituents are concerned about topless rallies promoting women’s equality…

Shift in the Wind

Another fun promotional video from the Sex Worker Freedom Festival last July:

Childish Things (TW3 #33)

Dr. Paul Maginn has published another appeal for sanity, stating that “various parts of the world appear to be suffering from a mix of moral panic and ideological myopia” on the issue of sex work.  Though brief, the article debunks lies about “sex trafficking”, “dirty whores”, “end demand” and “negative secondary effects”, and includes quotes from Drs. Laura Agustín and Brooke Magnanti.

Obfuscation Via Dysphemisms

Oklahoma “authorities” seem even more enchanted with the notion of “human trafficking” than most Americans:

…Clarence F. Holden, 25, of Fort Smith [Arkansas] faces felony counts of human trafficking and procuring for prostitution…Officers arrested Holden and two other people…after the Vice Unit responded to an Internet post…for “a massage with a ‘happy ending’ ” for $150…Destiny Hope Niles, 24, also of Fort Smith – told police Holden keeps her money, car keys and credit card and threatened her physically…

Consider that even though this sort of petty manipulation is what passes for “trafficking” to American cops, they still can’t come up with anything like the hysterical claims.

The Public Eye

just like Mommy4 Things You Should Know About Women Who Strip” by Jennifer Ward doesn’t break any new ground for readers of this blog, but as far as I’m concerned we can’t have enough articles explaining that sex workers and our clients are “a lot more diverse than people assume them to be.”  In the same vein, three porn actors answered questions at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri:  “Lance Hart…Tori Black and James Deen answered questions as a part of a Sex Week panel event…the purpose of the panel was to foster dialogue about aspects of the porn industry that are not typically discussed, such as sexual health…

Something Rotten in Sweden (TW3 #44)

Though this article perpetuates the increasingly-common lie that the Swedish model is “decriminalization”, it at least tells the truth about the damage to sex workers caused by “end demand” campaigns:

…the “End Demand Illinois” campaign…asks that johns…become the law’s targets…[and] is working to make johns, pimps and traffickers more accountable, but it’s also sought to…stop treating prostitution as a felony.  Right now, if a sex worker is hit with two misdemeanor charges related to prostitution in Illinois, the second charge is upgraded to a felony…Last fall The Chicago Reporterfound that prostitution-related felonies are being levied almost exclusively against sex workers…Rachel Lovell, a researcher at Case Western University…co-authored a paper that criticized End Demand Illinois.  It argued that stiffer penalties against johns actually end up hurting female sex workers.  “The philosophy and the overarching theme of the End Demand movement is that all women in prostitution are victims,” Lovell said…it’s important to distinguish between the different ways one can be a sex worker…“To say if we increase penalties for men they will just stop buying…[is] too simplistic…”

All the Difference

Indian sex workers have powerfully resisted “sex trafficking” hysteria, and have convinced many “authorities” that they are not passive victims.  Unfortunately, the rescue industry will lose money and power if it has nobody to “rescue”, and so has increasingly turned its attentions toward abducting sex workers’ children, defending the practice with propaganda films:

Not Today…[is] a feature-length film that sheds light on the modern-day sex trafficking industry that consumes the Dalit class in India…”The world needs to understand that slavery still exists, that even today young children are bought and sold like cattle, that little girls are forced into the dark illicit sex trade, that young boys and girls are coerced to beg in the streets and bring their proceeds back to line the pockets of thugs who abuse them at night,” said the film’s executive producer, Matthew Cork…

Deep Inside infographicDrama Queens (TW3 #48)

Though I’d love to see a methodologically-sound study of 10,000 whores, 10,000 porn actors is a good start.  Click on the picture (and again to enlarge), then read Jon Millward’s article and Brooke Magnanti’s interview with him.

Get Out of the 19th Century Often? (TW3 #136)

A proposed prostitution ban met with opposition at an Atlanta City Council work session…Community leaders, church pastors and advocates against sex trafficking said the ban was harshly targeting victims of the sex trade…Chad Brock of the ACLU said they might consider challenging the ordinance if it becomes law…”Instead of pairing you up with the social services you need, they’re telling you to go away,” Brock said. “We don’t believe that’s going to help any sex worker rehabilitating themselves”…

Unclean Situation

As expected, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has issued a less mealy-mouthed follow-up to his previous pseudo-apology to the victims of the Magdalene laundries, but as blogger Bock the Robber asked,

Where is the apology from the nuns who ran these slave labour camps?  Where is the apology from the NSPCC (now the ISPCC), employers of the feared and unsupervised cruelty men who consigned so many children and young women to this slavery…Where is the apology from the Legion of Mary, whose members…[facilitated] the incarceration of people they disapproved of?  Where is the apology from the Roman Catholic church on behalf of all those parish priests who ripped children from the heart of their families because of some warped and perverted view of sexuality?…What an extraordinary society it was that deputised an assortment of self-serving busybodies…and continues to give…such power to clerics and self-appointed meddlers…

On the same day, the Telegraph carried a moving article by Samantha Long about her birth-mother, who was an inmate of one of the laundries.

Skin To Skin

This article about sex work with the disabled covers some good ground, but unfortunately also gives a platform to those who think real people’s needs should be subordinate to “messages” and sacrificed to the impossible quest for an unreachable Utopia:

…The sexual needs of people with disabilities are under the spotlight like never before after the release of…The Sessions…last month, ex-staff from a care home…[said] they had allowed sex workers into the home at the request of disabled residents…and…Becky Adams…plans to open the first brothel…for disabled clients in the UK…[but others see] the use of sex workers as a potentially harmful development.  “It’s like the world telling you that disabled people are so unsexy that the only way they can have sex is to pay for it…What disabled people need is full and equal rights. An inclusive society, which doesn’t create barriers”…

Caring Professionals

On the same day my column appeared, Robin Hustle published the similarly-themed (though broader) “What Prostitutes, Nurses and Nannies Have in Common”.  The Jezebel commentariat is predictably split between the narcissistic, the wholly clueless, and nurses who are Terribly OffendedTM at being compared to whores.

Read Full Post »

Philosophy, as the modern world knows it, is only intellectual club-swinging.  –  H.L. Mencken

Lamb to the SlaughterI’ve often referred to Maslow’s Hammer, the principle that “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.”  But the concept of “trafficking” has become so vague, so broad, so misshapenly obtuse, that it doesn’t even really qualify as a hammer any more.  A hammer, after all, has a definite shape and is really only intended for one purpose, while “trafficking” can mean nearly anything and is used by governments to beat down a wide variety of opponents.  It has become what would more accurately be termed a blunt instrument, an object which, though designed for some specific purpose, is effective as a weapon due to its size, weight and hardness in comparison with living tissue.  Hammers, baseball bats, two by fours, crowbars, monkey wrenches, pipes, walking sticks and frozen legs of lamb might all be intended for different uses, but when applied with sufficient force to the human skull they will each accomplish more or less the same thing (though perhaps to different degrees of efficacy and efficiency).  The same thing could be said of “trafficking” rhetoric; it might not be the best weapon with which any given “authority” can beat an opponent into submission, but it’s more than large, heavy and blunt enough to do the job.

Today we’ll look at two examples, one small and one large.  The first is from New York City, and involves a law originally intended to persecute Asian massage parlors.  Many old laws with that same intention have been dusted off again in the past few years and employed to harass small businesses the fanatics label as hotbeds of “trafficking” (i.e. prostitution by immigrants), especially because the cops are being given money to do so and catering to moral panics is always good PR.  But in the Big Apple, a club intended for the delicate heads of Asian ladies is instead being used to attack people interested in working out or doing yoga:

…the…1978 [law] banning sexual massage businesses…requires “physical culture establishments,” such as gyms, aerobics studios, martial arts and yoga studios — as well as massage parlors — to undergo a rigorous review process.  But [many of the gyms and studios are angry because they have to go through the lengthy and expensive process, while few massage parlors do]…“The amazing thing is that [officials] are generally not asking you questions about prostitution…but [rather] about noise and soundproofing,” real estate attorney Joshua Price…said…As a result of complaints about the statute’s application, the city is reviewing the regulation for possible changes, Rachaele Raynoff…[of the] Department of City Planning…said…Raynoff declined to comment on the low percentage of massage parlors passing through the review process…One landlord-representative broker active in Midtown South…said spa tenants were not taking a substantial amount of space in the area, which is popular with tech tenants.  “In my experience, they are not competing with our typical office tenants for space, at all…If you are operating a facility like that, you would probably want to be in a building as inconspicuous as possible”…

NY massage parlorI’ll translate this from the bureaucratese for you: most business regulation is designed to attract squeeze by allowing large, wealthy companies to pay for harassment intended to shut out new competition; the businesses that are “inspected” most often and most thoroughly are those a bribe-payer wants gone.  In this case, the gyms are in prime locations that other companies covet, so those who will profit by the deal encourage the department to harass them.  Massage parlors, on the other hand, tend to be in cheaper, less conspicuous buildings that the big boys don’t want, therefore it’s less profitable for the city to inspect them. The weapon originally intended to smite those hated by prudes and racists is instead now hired to the highest bidder, and the prudes are furious about it; if you have time take a look at the hilariously uptight language in that article (complete with an obligatory but totally irrelevant mention of Backpage).

But graft isn’t the only time-honored crime for which politicians have found “trafficking” useful; France has recently employed it for warmongering:

…French forces drove the Ansar Dine militia from the city of Konna after deploying warplanes and hundreds of troops…to Mali, its former colony…[at the] request [of] the Malian government…Mali, long seen as a stable democracy in a volatile region, was split in two last year when Tuareg rebels who had fled Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi seized the major northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.  The Tuareg fighters were swiftly outflanked by Al Qaeda-linked militants who imposed a severe form of Islamic law in the north…France has been playing a more interventionist role in Africa, declaring that it would fight terrorism anywhere on the continent…[but it] sees Mali as a particular concern because human traffickers and drug smugglers have been able to cross the region’s porous borders and get to Europe without difficulty.  The fear is that terrorists based in northern Mali could use the same routes to cross into Europe and launch devastating attacks…

Clue lead pipeI hope you followed that “logic”:  there are African prostitutes in France, therefore they must have been carried there by “human traffickers” (rather than arriving under their own power) by way of Mali (and not anyplace outside of Africa, or that we have no invitation to bomb).  Ergo, terrorists!

I’ve often warned that laws against prostitution harm everyone and invariably lead to expansions of government power.  But even before those powers expand, there is no guarantee that elected thugs will not use the weapons given them by a credulous populace for a totally different purpose than that for which they were originally intended.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »